Zinc Oxide is an inorganic compound with the formula ZnO. It usually appears as a white powder, nearly insoluble in water. The powder is widely used as an additive into numerous materials and products including plastics, ceramics, glass, cement, rubber (e.g., car tires), lubricants, paints, ointments, adhesives, sealants, pigments, foods (source of Zn nutrient), batteries, ferrites, fire retardants, first aid tapes, etc. ZnO is present in the Earth's crust as the mineral zincite; however, most ZnO used commercially is produced synthetically.
The applications of zinc oxide powder are numerous, and the principal ones are summarized below. Most applications exploit the reactivity of the oxide as a precursor to other zinc compounds. For material science applications, zinc oxide has high refractive index, high thermal conductivity, binding, antibacterial and UV-protection properties. Consequently, it is added into various materials and products, including plastics, ceramics, glass, cement, rubber, lubricants, paints, ointments, adhesive, sealants, pigments, foods, batteries, ferrites, fire retardants, etc.
About 50% of ZnO use is in the rubber industry. Zinc oxide along with stearic acid activates vulcanization, which otherwise may not occur at all. Zinc oxide and stearic acid are ingredients in the commercial manufacture of rubber goods. A mixture of these two compounds allows a quicker and more controllable rubber cure. ZnO is also an important additive to the rubber of car tires. Vulcanization catalysts are derived from zinc oxide, and it considerably improves the thermal conductivity, which is crucial to dissipate the heat produced by the deformation when the tire rolls. ZnO additive also protect rubber from fungi (see medical applications) and UV light.
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